Garden-Planting Calendar for Tucson and the Sonoran Desert
This calendar is a rough planting guide for food plants in the Tucson area, southern Arizona, and northern Sonora Mexico. (Depending on the weather, ideal planting times can extend into the month following or preceding the month recommended below). It is compiled from Desert Harvest, Tucson Organic Gardeners’ Composter newsletter, Native Seeds/SEARCH planting chart, conversations with Tucson gardeners, and my own experience. Please experiment and let us know if you have any improvements. Let’s grow this list and our knowledge as we grow our gardens — and then share the abundance!
With the first good winter rain (or even better, just before it if you’re watching the weather forecast), plant native wildflower seed within and beside water-harvesting earthworks. Our winter rainy season is December-February, but the first good rains can arrive late. Wildlands Restoration is a great source for native Sonoran desert wildflower and restoration seed (Spadefoot Nursery and Native Seeds/SEARCH sell their seed).
After danger of frost you can plant Lima beans, black-eyed peas, cane sorghum, chilies, chiltepines, cotton, gourds, indigo, panic grass, teosinte, tobacco, tomatillos
Mulch trees, shrubs, and vegetables (will retain moisture and lessen stress on plants as temperatures warm up
Plant such annuals as marigolds to add color and deter pests from garden
You may want to sow tall plants such as sunflowers and amaranth on the west side of your plot to screen other plants from the hot afternoon sun.
If planting corn consider the traditional “three sisters” arrangement of corn, beans, and squash or melons together. The corn creates a trellis and shade. The beans fix nitrogen in the soil and grow up the corn. The squash or melons take advantage of the shade and nitrogen while creating a living-mulch over the ground to protect the soil.
Warm-to-hot-season greens such as amaranth, purslane, lambsquarters, Malabar spinach, and Yakina Savoy lettuce can be sown now and grown through summer — all will appreciate afternoon shade from a tall trellis, native mesquite tree, or sunflowers to the west.
Once plump from the summer rains, you can dig up and transplant agave murpheyi pups either into planting pots or the earth. Here in the hot low desert, agaves do best grown in partial shade beneath the canopy of a native tree.
Once plump from the winter rains, you can dig up and transplant agave murpheyi pups either into planting pots or the earth. Here in the hot low desert, agaves do best grown in partial shade beneath the canopy of a native tree.
For how to water these plantings with free, on-site waters…
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Great info on how to effectively place these plants in relationship with other vegetation and buildings to passively to shade/cool your tender plants at the hottest time of day, which will conserve lots of water and improve the vitality of your plants